SINGUR TO SALBONI: DEMANDING EMPLOYMENT

Come ride the growth’ read the huge colourful banners all over the city of Kolkata. The various festivals in Kolkata and around the city are apparent proves of the fact that ‘Bengal is smiling’, from the hills of North Bengal to the coastline of Digha, Bengal is smiling, laughing, guffawing. But, we think those making such claims are misinterpreting the grief-stricken shrieks of the wife who lost her husband or the father who lost his daughter as a collective hoot of laughter from the people of the state.

The term of the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal has almost come to an end, only shy of a few months. In September, 2008 TATA head honcho, Ratan Tata announced that he was forced to abort the operations of the TATA Nano manufacturing unit that was to be set up in Singur, West Bengal and shifted this entire unit to Surat in Gujarat. This decision from Tata Motors came owing to wide-spread protest by the then opposition i.e. TMC, headed by their leader Ms. Mamata Banerjee. Banerjee had argued that the Left government had wrongfully acquired more land than was needed for the project and from farmers that were unwilling to give up their land. She demanded that the land that had been taken from those farmers who did not want to give their land originally must be returned and only the amount of land obtained by consent should be used. But, what she failed to realise was that, under the law once the land has been acquired, it could not be reverted back. As a result, neither was the project (that would’ve generated numerous job opportunities for those who had offered their lands and development of the region) realised nor did the unwilling farmers get back their lands. We would also like to remind you that, the TMC had promised to return the land of the unwilling farmers and also hinted at other projects that might come up in the remaining land that had been acquired. These two promises were a very important part of the TMC election campaign for the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 Vidhan Sabha elections. But as is evident, the region has seen no signs of development or job opportunities in the past 5 years.

As working factories all over the state are coming to a grinding halt and the workers are losing their jobs, bringing their family out onto the streets in many cases, Ms. Banerjee has personally made sure the festivities in the state and the foundation stone laying ceremonies in the state don’t come to a stop. All of us had had a good laugh when our Chief Minister in a public meeting had said that, the fried snacks stalls at every street corner were also actually an art form and that this was an untapped industry in our state. But, now as the death toll of the tea garden workers dying due to starvation and malnutrition is increasing day-by-day, it is time we need to stop making jokes and consciously decide to stand up and make our voices heard. A steel project that was being set up by Sajjan Jindal in Salboni, also had its operations suspended, citing technical reasons.

The corruption that came to light in the conduction of the SSC-TET exam by the state government is another example of the short-comings of the present government. Prior to their accession in power, the TMC had appealed to the youth with their catchy slogans, songs (most of which were a copy off of largely leftist sources) and most importantly, they had promised employment to the youth in the state. Mamata Banerjee, in  her public speeches has announced time and again that, one lakh recruitments will be made in the education sector- 35000 primary teachers, 46000 secondary teachers, 1400 college teachers, 6000 university heads, 3500 librarians and 7000 college and university non-teaching staff will be recruited. But, in the past four years, only 17000 primary teachers and 22000 secondary teachers have been recruited. The SSC-TET exam that was held regularly every year during the time of the Left front government has now become an nonfunctional formality since, the recruitments seem to all be ‘coincidentally’ going to friends and family of TMC associates all over the state. No new major projects have been set up in the state that would employ those who want to work and thus, in turn the numbers of those remaining unemployed is quite high. Thus, again the TMC government failed to deliver on its promise of generation of jobs for the youth.

In the light of these developments in the state, the CPI(M) has taken up a program. The program began on 16th January, 2016 with an inaugural gathering at Singur, from where a ‘Padjatra’ was flagged off which would end on 22nd January, 2016 at Salboni. The idea behind taking up this program is bringing back focus to Singur and Salboni and to remind the people of Bengal who it was actually that, initiated the industrialisation drive in the state, the benefits of which, the present government show-cased at the Bengal global business summit. Further, the ‘Padjatra’ has also been undertaken demanding employment in the state.

The padajatra began with a public meeting at Singur, the week-long procession was kicked off by Com. Budhhadeb Bhattacharya. He said, "If the (Nano) factory was set up here, situation would have changed in Singur. But only darkness prevailed". Turning to the JSW group's Salboni steel project, he said, "that would have been implemented by now but nothing came up. The state has turned into a hell and it lagged behind". The procession will be moving through different blocks of the districts. Meetings are to be held at Tarakeshwar, Pursura, Arambagh, Hajipur, Ramjibanpur, Chandrakona and Keshpur. The last rally will be held at Salboni on January 22, where two other processions from Haldia and Bishnupur in Bankura will merge.

The SFI as a democratic students’ organisation and being a constituent part of BPMO supports this call and urges its comrades to join in the procession from Singur to Salboni and make it a grand success.

16th January, 2016